Ma’Khia Bryant – Say Her Name

On April 20, 2021, 20 minutes before the Derek Chauvin verdict was read (guilty on all 3 counts), police officers in Columbus, Ohio shot and killed a 16-year-old black girl, Ma’Khia Bryant. Bryant had called the police herself because two other girls were physically assaulting her with a knife. Bryant was in foster care and in the custody of Children’s Services. The day of victory for a white officer finally being held accountable for killing a black man was tempered by another execution of a black life by police.

At about the same time yesterday I started receiving text messages from my husband about our 12-year-old son. His friend, who he rides the bus with and walks home with every day, has been being bullied for the last few weeks by two boys in our neighborhood. They have been calling him ethnic and gender slurs and finally the friend couldn’t take it anymore. He had given my son his cell phone to record the boys taunting him. The friend stood up for himself and the boys started physically assaulting him. The fight stopped when one of our neighbors called the police and the bullies ran home. The officers had my son fill out a witness statement and my husband, who works from home because of COVID-19, was able to stand with him and give support to his friend and his friend’s guardians. Much like Bryant, this friend has lived a hard life and does not live with his biological parents.

When I got home from work I had a discussion with my son about white privilege. At no time did I as a mother worry that the police were going to roll up on the scene where the fight occurred and murder my white son. My son is the exact same age as Tamir Rice when he was shot and killed by police. I told him about Ma’Khia and as a foster child maybe her life hadn’t been that much different than his friend’s. They’ve both suffered losses in their biological families that led them to not being in the custody of their parents.

One thing I know for sure is that 16-year-old girls defending themselves against knife attacks don’t deserve to be murdered by the very people they called for help. I hope in the coming days we learn more about Ma’Khia’s life and not just about the horrific way in which it ended. “A woman who said she was Bryant’s aunt expressed great anger at the scene, saying her niece was a loving person who didn’t deserve to die ‘like a dog in the street.'” a news outlet reported.

I hope my fellow white people are sitting with this today and contemplating why they are not afraid of their children being killed “like a dog in the street” when they encounter the police. If black parents are having to instruct their children how not to get killed, we white parents should at least clear the low bar of talking to our children about racism, white supremacy, and white privilege.

As the apostle President Dallin H. Oaks said in a talk back in October 2020 – Black Lives Matter.

Risa

Risa has a Masters and Bachelors degree in Social Work. She is an Associate Therapist who has worked in child abuse prevention, adoption, and volunteers as a CASA . She is a mother of 4 and in her spare time she is a voracious reader, snarker, and subversive cross-stitcher.

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32 Responses

  1. Jennifer says:

    The 2 articles I read said Bryant had a knife and was pushing or attempting to stab the other girls. It seems the officer was trying to protect the other girls. We will have to wait for the investigation to unfold to know more. I don’t know the race of the other girls. Where does white privilege come in to this tragic event? Were the police white? Who are the police allowed to protect? Should they let one girl stab another? What if they did? What would you say about that? That their white privilege makes them not care at all about girls of color? I don’t understand where you get the information to make such strong statements about the motives of the police.

    • Risa says:

      THE POLICE SHOULD NOT KILL ANYONE

      That’s not how our system of justice works. Committed a crime? Due process. Have drugs in your system? Due process. They should be de-escalating situations, not firing 4 kill shots into a teenager.

      There is NO crime for which the punishment is spontaneous public execution.
      Period.

      • Nathan Whilk says:

        “THE POLICE SHOULD NOT KILL ANYONE”

        Ashli Babbitt? Charles Whitman? Syed Rizwan Farook? Noah Green? Omar Mateen? John Patrick Bedell? Jimmy Lee Dykes? Sulejman Talovic? Long Khac Nguyen? John Miranda? Pedro Alberto Vargas?

    • Risa says:

      If you think teenagers armed with deadly weapons should be shot and killed by police, please tell me why Kyle Rittenhouse is still alive. I wonder what the difference is between him and Ma’Khia? Check you own white privilege before you comment again.

  2. Jennifer says:

    I watched the video of the incidence. Bryant had the other girl backed against a car with a knife raised above her head. It looks like she is about to stab the other girl. How should the officer have deescalated that situation.? You assume I am white. Why? Because I’m concerned that one black girl is about to stab another black girl? How dare you you try to shame me because I commented here with an opinion different than yours.

    • KR says:

      When Risa calls out the white privilege in policing in America, it is not about you or any reader or commenter here on the blog individually. It is about systemic problems in our criminal justice system that has large scale, radically different outcomes for individuals based on race. Ma’Khia Bryant did not deserve to die for her actions, and had she been white or lived in a nicer neighborhood, she would have had a much higher likelihood of non-lethal de-escalation tactics being used to protect both her and the girls she appears to be attacking in the video. The problem is so much bigger than any one of us, but we have to be able to see and name the problem of systemic racism.

      • Jennifer says:

        Risa very much made it about me when she said, “check your own white privilege before you comment again”. Don’t try to candy coat her personal attack on me and assumptions about my race.

        Risa and apparently most of you commenting have already decided that this all about race. No one wants to even consider that 4 black people were having a knock down, violent fight in a neighborhood that didn’t stop so that the officer could ascertain the facts, send everyone to their respective corners to cool down, or call for back up. What he saw when he drove up was one black girl about to stab another. In less than a minute, he had to decide how to protect a girl from being stabbed.

      • Risa says:

        Jennifer, if you feel personally attacked by me asking you to examine your white privilege, might I suggest the book “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo. I’ve provided an Amazon link so you can buy it today and start educating yourself.

        https://www.amazon.com/White-Fragility-People-About-Racism/dp/0807047414

        Hopefully you can see why bringing up black on black crime is another tactic of the oppressor to not take accountability for the systemic racism they perpetuate.

    • liz johnson says:

      There are so many ways the police could have deescalated this situation without firing four bullets into a teenage girl’s body. It’s not like the police only have two options – complete, peaceful compliance or a fatal force. If those are the only choices they believe they’re operating with, then the police have no business responding to these kinds of incidents. And even if you think they used force justifiably (I absolutely do not), the data still shows that they disproportionately use fatal force more often against Black people versus white people, all else being equal (even when suspects are believed to be armed, white police officers shoot and kill Black people at a much higher rate than white people). We know that a white police officer killed Ma’Khia Bryant, despite the fact that she called them for defending herself. The statistics show that this may not have been the case if Ma’Khia had been white.

      • Jennifer says:

        Your exactly right, Liz. The police have no business showing up. They should let a group of people fight it out. They should let black people stab each other. White people care very much about white people killing black people, but they don’t get too concerned if black people kill each other. I have yet to read a blog post on Exponenet where someone is outraged when a black person kills another black person. Please, would someone show some concern about that violence that goes on EVERY DAY around the country.

    • April says:

      I hate that in the US we are so comfortable with a standard of peace officers turned executioners as normal policing. Other countries are able to train their police officers to respond to lethal force threats with de escalation and non-lethal means.
      Anytime police bring death and violence in lieu of peace and order we need legal review. It shouldn’t be so easy to dismiss the death of a child or make excuses for police bringing death instead of a non-lethal peace.

  3. Jennifer says:

    And in case you need a reminder, I copied this from Exponent blog.

    The Exponent Blog began in January 2006, and features the voices of numerous LDS women from different backgrounds and experiences.

  4. Violadiva says:

    I really relate with this aspect of White privilege you mention – that my son has the privilege of believing that the police will protect him, that he has a higher chance of them keeping his body safe even if he’s committing a crime or not complying with their orders. I want all citizens to know that the police are there to serve and protect, and even if a crime is committed, that the offender will have their day in court.
    Crimes all around the country are committed every day, by all races and ethnicities of people. The prejudice + power that is present when a white peace officer takes the life of a person of color will always have racial implications. Biases and prejudices playing out – what led to that white officer deciding which person to shoot and which person to attempt to de-escalate and arrest alive? Could those split second decisions be impacted by that white officer’s cultural conditioning in a White supremacist society to see people of color as some extra threatening threat? Or that because of the history of lynching and white violence against people of color, Black life is somehow not as worthy of protection at any cost? All of these big questions are confronted any time a white officer responds with excessive force and violence against a Black citizen, to a statistical higher rate of death than white citizens.
    Crimes perpetuated by one Black individual to another Black individual are not racially motivated, and do not reflect the power/prejudice dynamic found in White supremacist policing entities.
    It’s also good to keep in mind that the initial reports of what happened are very likely to be only partially correct about the specific circumstances of this story. Body cam footage will tell more of the story, but this much we know: a young Black woman was in distress, called the police for help, and without any mention of attempts at conversation, de escalation, or non-lethal intervention, was killed by police. We are all mourning the loss of this child’s life.
    It’s a privilege of my whiteness that I do not fear this fate for my own child. Because of that privilege, the way I can show gratitude for this privilege is by doing all I can to make sure the same opportunity of protection by police for all children is consistently applied. Vote with my time, feet, hands and dollars.

  5. Heather says:

    Risa, there are two men I consider sons: one white and one Black. My Black son called today and shared some good news with me. I was overjoyed. When I asked if he was happy, he said, “Mama, it’s hard to really feel happy when so many people who look like me are getting killed.” And I felt heart broken. I hate that he does not live in a world that can assume safety. And I hate that he had to remind me of that. I have the privilege of not worrying that getting pulled over could end my life. People don’t look at me and assume I’m dangerous. But this son does have that advantage. The particulars of this case are not the problem. The system is the problem.

  6. meri says:

    The Columbus mews stations are, of course, repeating this news over and over. All versions raise a number of questions and comments in my mind.

    They stress how many blacks have been killed by whites in the last year. But only a few days earlier they were all reporting about the all-time high in the number of murders in the Columbus area in the last year. That “figure” at the beginning of this paragraph was only a small portion of the larger figure.

    What if the police officer had waited longer, allowing the other young girl (s?) to be stabbed? The girl was warned (in body camera footage released the same day) to drop the weapon.

    Columbus has experienced an extremely high rate of crime committed by teenagers of both races this year, even by very young teens and pre-teens. This has included armed car jackings, armed robbery, etc.

    I don’t want to appear to be criticizing foster care because I realize that it can be absolutely necessary. I also realize that often children in that situation have special problems and need extra help I just wonder about the whole situation in this case.

    Why did anyone in that confrontation have ANY weapon? How could that have been prevented?

    I think that almost everyone admits that we need police reform. The differences are in the type and extent of what is needed.

    Ultimately, we need to see what the investigation reveals. Also, we need to remember that there are racists and non-racists in every race and ethnic group. Let’s not make assumptions and automatically start profiling anyone in any group. Let’s wait for the evidence before rushing to judgment. Then we are a little more entitled to move very slowly toward judging others.

    • Risa says:

      I’ve worked in the social work field for almost 14 years. Social workers are able to de-escalate situations where weapons are involved every single day. If police officers can’t do that, they shouldn’t be police officers. I don’t know how you can make comments about not rushing to judgment about white cops and black people the same day that the first white cop ever was convicted of killing a black man. I just don’t understand how white people can hide behind their privilege and deny the reality in front of them.

    • EmilyCC says:

      Meri, I’m not sure how Ma’Khia’s death requires us to slow down our judgment. She was a black girl, calling for help. This is clearly racist; I don’t think this is a case of all sides need to be studied for motivations and evidence. Racism can only exist when one group has power and influence over another.

      • Jennifer says:

        How was the officer to know which girl called him and asked for help. One girl was being kicked by a man. Another girl had a knife raised in the air ready to stab another girl. If he drove up with the intent to kill a black person and murder someone, why not shoot the girl on the ground. She was closer. He saw 2 girls in need of help. It seems he decided in an instant the girl about to be stabbed was in the most danger.

  7. meri says:

    I was not denying anything. In fact, I probably could not have served on the Chauvin jury because it already seemed to me that he was guilty. I was neither criticizing nor defending either the police or the young girl. I was simply expressing rational thoughts and questions that occurred to me. I still say that we should never automatically start profiling anyone until we see the specific evidence.

    We have been profiled many, many times simply because my husband has a very common name. Fortunately, it has only caused delays, sometimes long ones. I realize that other types of profiling are far more serious. Still, armchair analysts, even professional ones, should at least examine the evidence instead of condemning an entire group and then automatically assuming the worst of an indivdual who is a member of that group.

    • Risa says:

      A white cop rolled up on a scene and fired 4 kill shots into the chest of a black teenager in under a minute. He didn’t use any de-escalation techniques. Hell, he didn’t even use a taser. There were a lot of choices that could have been made, even firing a shot into the air. Instead he chose murder.

      Black people have been begging white people to listen for years to what they have been talking about when it comes to police brutality. It feels very privileged for you to continue to insist this is an individual problem and not a systemic one. I expect more from an educator.

    • Jennifer says:

      How dare you throw logic into this discussion, meri. How dare you ask people to wait to hear ALL the facts. Everyone is a racist according to this group.*please read with the sarcasm intended*

      • Risa says:

        Yes Jennifer, you’re starting to get it. Every white person is racist because we grew up in a white supremacist society. Every day as a white person I have to wake up and root out my unconscious or unexamined biases. Your defensive comments at being given a small amount of pushback demonstrate why many Mormon women of color do not feel safe in feminist spaces. You’re crying about your hurt feelings while they’re just trying to stay alive. I really hope you do some reading and educating yourself and yes, check your privilege, before you feel like your white tears should be catered to over black lives.

  8. Meri says:

    Please start practicing those marvelous de-escalation skills that you claim instead of trying so hard to escalate things. “‘Judgment is mine’ sayeth the Lord.”

  9. Anarene Holt Yim says:

    It breaks my heart that there are LDS women so lacking in compassion for a child. A precious child of God! Where is your charity? Where is your concern for the lambs?

  10. Anarene Holt Yim says:

    I’ll say this as gently as I can: if you are a white person who has always lived in the US, you have never experienced racism and you don’t understand it much. There’s no shame in that; no one is born understanding racism.

    But if you don’t know the difference between systemic racism and individual prejudice, if you don’t recognize the privileges you’ve received due to being born white, if you’re vaguely bothered when someone notes that you’re white—please educate yourself before you form an opinion and publicly spread that opinion on the internet. Ignorance may be bliss, but do yourself and everyone else a favor by learning before speaking. Your ignorance hurts other people!

  11. Jennifer says:

    And one more thing before I leave and never darken the Exponent door again. I quit attending Relief Society and eventually became inactive because there was only room for women who all shared the same views. They were uncomfortable with hearing a different opinion than the one that most of the group shared which was mine. There was one woman in particular with her own brand of self righteousness who had no problem calling me out for my incorrect opinions and ignorance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    I guess it’s no surprise to see that same pattern followed here. Shame and shut down the woman who thinks differently. Make sure the group only supports one belief system because you are all so very righteous and enlightened.

    Was this the intent of the women who founded the original Relief Society and the original Exponent?

    • Risa says:

      More white fragility. Please, please please read that book. This is not about you. Your hurt feelings over being called out are not the issue. A black girl is dead. Stop talking about **your** hurt feelings.

  12. Meri says:

    The fact that we ask questions and try to listen and respond rationally does not mean that we lack compassion. (Tbere many of you go again, judging without any knowledge and instantly profiling.)

    I feel great compassion for ALL involved.these terrible tragedies, even for those who are obviously criminally involved. Even they are children of God. How tragic that they made such terrible choices. I often think of how different their lives might have been.

    God loves everyone and teaches us to do the same–with compassion–while holding them accountable for their choices.

    Ranting and raging against those who take a more calm approach convinces no one of anything except your irrationality.

    • Risa says:

      No one ranted and no one raged. Getting pushback for comments is not ranting nor raging. It’s interesting that you’ve decided that your approach is calm and anyone who disagrees with you much be raging.

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